Category Archives: Ethics in adoption

Adoption Reform: All We Need is Laws?

This article was originally commissioned and published by the Donaldson Adoption Institute, which closed its doors last month. No longer accessible at the Donaldson site, this article was derived from a workshop Addison Cooper (Adoption at the Movies) and I presented at the American Adoption Congress Conference in 2016.

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Imagine a glorious time in the future when all adoptees can get their original birth certificates and all open adoption arrangements are codified with a contract. Won’t it be great to be finished with the hard work of adoption reform?

reforming adoption

While changes in adoption laws and policy are necessary, these alone will not make Adoption World all better. If laws were the endpoints, then the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments would have resulted in immediate equality for formerly enslaved and free African Americans. But they didn’t. Now, even 150 years later, our society struggles with these same issues.

Reforming policy and law is one necessary step, but it’s not the last step. Not until ideas of respect, empathy, and inherent value of others also take root in people’s hearts can true and enduring change happen.

Imposed vs Embraced

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4 Problems with NBC TODAY Parents Adoption Article

Beware any article that paints open adoption as terrible. Beware any article that paints open adoption as wonderful. Open adoption — which occurs when people come together under less-than-optimal circumstances — is a mix of the sublime and the sorrowful.

I was encouraged when I saw a headline for a TODAY Parents article: “Open Adoption is not something to fear.” That statement, I believe, is true. If parents are entering into the lifelong responsibility of adopting a child, they need to be willing and able to give her, over her lifetime, all she needs to become whole and integrated. This means adoptive parents must be willing to identify and resolve their own fears and insecurities  about not being the Only in their child’s life. (As the author says, she was “scared to death” about having to share her child. But she worked through that fear, as adoptive parents need to do).

So I’m on board with the title.  But much of what comes after that is problematic. Here are the top 4 issues that jump out at me.

4 problems with today parents adoption article

1. The Word “Our”

The article’s subheading “Finding Our Birth Mom” violates two oft-invoked rules in cross-triad groups, groups that seek to understand the perspectives of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents.

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#NotInTheBrochure: A Plan to Make Adoption World Better

Nobody Told Us

Have you heard this from a birth parent?

  • No one told me it would hurt this much for this long.
  • No one told me how much I would see myself in my child.
  • No one told me how my feelings would fluctuate over time.
  • They told me about open adoption, but no one told me how hard it would be to navigate these relationships and feelings.

Or this from an adoptive parent?

  • Wasn’t it supposed to be easy if we adopted at birth? No one told us there could still be issues of loss and grief.
  • No one told me how much I would want my child to have his/her whole story.
  • No one told me parenting by adoption would be different from parenting by biology. In fact, we were told the opposite, that it was exactly the same.
  • No one told me I would be open to so many people loving this child.

notinthebrochure

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